After a four-year break, Mark Oliver “E” Everett returns with his, well, most deconstructed album yet, The Deconstruction. Known as the frontman of indie rock outfit, Eels, E announced the project’s indefinite hiatus back in 2014, in the wake of The Cautionary Tales of Mark Oliver Everett. Returning with an album that in more than one sense of the word really feels like a concept album, then, stands as a testament to the impact those four years away from producing and touring music had on the singer-songwriter. At 54, Everett fathered a child, got divorced and took some time to reflect on his earlier life. Writing on his parents’ death and sister’s suicide, and his newborn son, Everett weaves together an extensively diverse 15-song track list. “The reconstruction will begin/Only when there’s nothing left,” sings Everett on the title track, “The Deconstruction”—reflecting the introspective aspect of the storytelling on this album. It seems as though Everett really did have to break everything down in order to rebuild and come back to recording his music. And as this album proves, the renovations have yielded a fairly solid foundation.
E has been known to write incredibly intimate, personal lyrics and the material on The Deconstruction is no different. If anything, the lyrics on this album are more emotionally intense than past Eels releases. But the music and instrumentation, on the other hand, vacillates between acoustic numbers and more substantial electric guitar, drum machine-backed tracks almost at leisure. The guitar overdrive and pronounced rhythm of “Bone Dry” slowly drift into the more expansive instrumental track, “The Quandary,” in which E attempts to fill some space with rather some tame guitar work.
The lyrics of the song “Premonition” are particularly moving, as is the lounge-style of “Rusty Pipes”—both songs feature images of E suffering from insomnia, amidst a flurry of poetic lyricism. At this point in the album, E really seems settled in his more moody, sensitive style of songwriting. On the song “Today Is The Day,” however, E pairs lyrics about liberation via personal change with livelier major scale rock backing.
A faint glimmer of hope amidst a shroud of darkness, “Today Is The Day,” is a standout track. The optimism gleaned from this track transitions nicely into the vintage TV show feel of “Sweet Scorched Earth”—a track about love’s permanence, delivered by a heavy-hearted E. “Sweet Scorched Earth” plays like the emotional centerpiece of the record, complete with gorgeous strings and what seems to be the sheet music of a love song from a Broadway musical. “Be Hurt” has more of a groove to it, in light of the spite in E’s lyrics. The chorus line “Be hurt, the world can take it/And so can you” pretty much sums it up, but then E turns things around with the nurturing ending line, “I’m not gonna let it destroy you.”
In all, The Deconstruction plays like a proud return to the professional music ecosystem for Mr. E. Full of sharp turns, 180s, layered instrumentation and powerful lyrics, Eels new album is a slight departure from their earlier work, but certainly follows in the same vein as E’s 2014 work. Taking his band back on the road, “The World’s Number One Entertainers” will be playing a summer tour through North America and Europe.